Ginkgo - Maidenhair Trees
Ginkgo trees are from the family Ginkgoaceae, yet interestingly they are the only surviving members of their family. In fact, they are commonly described as 'living fossils' as they are the sole survivors of an ancient species of trees that are in fact older than the dinosaurs (pre-Jurassic era). Ginkgo trees are only native to China and Ginkgo biloba has been used medicinally by the Chinese people for centuries and it is said to treat Alzheimer's disease and Dementia.
The foliage is quite unusual, and the fan-shaped leaves have been found in fossils and show the tree has remained virtually the same for thousands of years. Adding to its unique status is the fact that Ginkgos are deciduous conifers, and this is an attribute held by only a handful of trees. These trees are extremely hardy and there is no better example of this than the fact that a group of Ginkgo biloba were planted just 2km away from the 1945 Hiroshima atomic bomb blast and survived - in fact, they are still growing strong today. The oldest recorded individual Ginkgo tree is around 3500 years old.
For the everyday gardener, these trees are highly prized for their outstanding autumn leaf colour, and they are often planted as a feature tree. The Ginkgo biloba is the original survivor, and the more recent addition of the 'Autumn Gold' is a clone from a male Ginkgo biloba. These trees do grow to become quite tall and wide, so do plant them in a position where they can thrive and be enjoyed for many years to come.